So, a couple of nights ago I was watching a new film on Netflix. On the laptop, in the CICU. Big mistake. The film in question? A new one by George Clooney, called The Midnight Sky. And I did just fine, really I did. Almost, anyway. Around the time the Kyle Chandler character decides to return home I began to kind of crack around the edges and the ICU nurse said something that sounded very much to me like “Oh Hell No!” That was also about the time she also put out a Code Blue CICU Stat! call, too.
Those of you who’ve used fisheye camera lenses may relate to this, but that dance started again. Let’s call it the ICU MI Ballet. Only this time in pure fisheye senso-rama – whereby yours truly is stuck in the center of this very weird universe as some “really very serious shit” starts to go pear-shaped. All I remember hearing is someone calling out “we’re loosing him” – and I’m sitting there inside this fuzzy warm vortex at the center of the universe wondering who the hell they’re talking about…?
So, two days (daze?) later and I be feeling’ alright. Actually better than, because I have decided that I love, and I mean really, really love – morphine. You hurt, they shoot some of that goop into your IV and then you don’t hurt. Rather unlike Preparation H suppositories, which don’t work, never have and never will.
So, I talked someone into letting me write a little today and as a result this may take the record of world’s shortest chapter – and it gets a little dark, too. Recommended music: Steven Wilson’s Grace for Drowning, including the eponymous track, Deform to Form a Star, and most importantly Belle du jour.
The next few chapters of Come Alive will come next, all quite short, leading us only then to spend more time with Harry while he figures out what the 88th Key is really all about. I wonder, have you?
So, on to the brief white flash…
Dina came topsides and she looked exhausted, yet when she came and sat between Henry and Clyde, he folded his arms around her shoulders and held her close. Clyde farted, his enjoyment of the moment now refreshingly complete, his sense of accomplishment furiously unbridled after Rolf ran to the rail and dry-heaved.
So of course Henry scratched the old boy’s ears. “That was a good one, Clyde. High five!”
Dina shook her head while the two scoundrels nurtured each others wounded souls. “You two were made for one another,” she sighed. “Can you hear a little better now?”
He nodded, shot her a thumb’s up.
There came a deep rumbling roar a moment later, and they turned as one to look in the direction of Rotterdam and grimaced when a towering fireball rose up where one of the huge tank farms had been, and Henry moved behind the wheel.
“Is that new?” she asked.
“No,” Rolf replied. “A third wave of bombers broke through a half hour ago and hit the Belgian tanks we saw, then Nato aircraft starting hitting the fuel storage facilities.”
“How’s Mike?” Taggart asked, rubbing his eyes.
She shook her head. “He needs a burn ward, but at least we have antibiotics and morphine on board.”
“His scalp looks really bad,” Rolf added. “Like burned on a charcoal grill.”
“Third-degree,” Dina nodded. “And do you remember why?”
“Yes, the germinal layer is compromised.”
“Normal cell replacement is inhibited.”
“Jesus F-ing Christ,” Taggart said, grinning. “World War Three breaks out and you two are already working on histology lessons between air raids…”
“The world is going to need many new physicians, Henry,” she chided.
A WRTHRFX alert chimed on the plotter and Taggart hit the accept button, and NOAAs latest weather-fax downloaded, appearing on screen in batches as the computer processed the huge proprietary files. Henry leaned forward, wincing as the same sharp, incisor-like pain bit into his side once again – but he fought his way through it with a deep cough and another wince.
“Oh dearie-me,” he sighed as he zoomed in, then he went to the satellite weather system and pulled that information out of the air. “Well, well, aren’t you something?” he said as he zoomed in once again.
“What is it?” Dina asked.
“Another hurricane, but this one just about scraped the Azores off the map, and she’s just now turning to the northeast, yet…” He punched a button on the display and sea surface temps appeared, then another and wind vectors were overlaid – and Taggart whistled when he watched this newest data filling the screen – before he muttered “Holy guacamole…” as implications and outcomes washed over and across his thoughts.
Only now, even Rolf seemed intrigued. “Henry? What is it?”
“Sea surface temps 100 miles northeast of Horta are 91 degrees, winds northeast of the eye wall are at 220 knots sustained…”
“Where is it headed?” Rolf whispered, wide-eyed now.
“The projection cone is centered on Brest, so even money this thing is gonna blast right up the Channel,” he said, pausing to work the numbers, “say in about four, maybe five days.”
“We will be out of the Channel by then, yes?” Dina said, shaking her head in disbelief.
“Yes, but only just, and that’s assuming the Russians don’t pull something really sneaky by then. Yet…” He ducked almost instinctively as a squadron of fighters darted by just overhead, followed – seconds later – by a terrifyingly loud boom and spreading curtains of sea spray, yet he caught Dina as she screamed and fell to the cockpit sole…
“F-15s,” he said as he turned and watched five of them disappear into the maelstrom surrounding Rotterdam – then three more groups of five slip-boomed overhead –
“Look!” Rolf said, pointing at faraway specs in the sky; Henry turned and looked at four B-21 Raiders and an even dozen F-35s spaced out around the formation, all headed for Rotterdam.
“Looks we got out of there just in time,” Dina said –
And before their eyes two missiles dropped from each Raider and lit-off, then falling to slam into earth at hypersonic speeds…
Taggart pulled up the chart-plotter and looked at their current position – 35 miles from the channel entrance and about 500 yards off the coast – when Taggart’s hands came up involuntarily, shielding his eyes from a wall of blinding light.
“Jesus…” Dina screamed…now cowering at his feet.
He pulled Clyde and Rolf down to the sole and covered them all with his body, and when he looked up he saw roaring torrents of debris being pulled – into – the blast – until the first wave of the thermal blast came for them – as it surely would. There wasn’t a damn thing he could do now, and he knew it, yet even so he couldn’t resist the almost primeval urge to watch this happen…
He’d seen a painting once, a meticulous visualization of a scene from Revelations as events unfolded under an imploding sky – over the upturned faces of an unbelieving people, and the feeling of déjà vu was suddenly overwhelming. The sky had turned a pewter-bronze color, and towering lead-gray clouds were spitting out blueish-white gouts of cloud-to-cloud lightning. The northeast horizon was an ashen line of sparkling black mist backlit by spreading lines of – something – the color of molten lava…
…then concussive waves of sound bit into Time Bandits, sending her 28 tons skittering across the surface of the sea like a flat rock skipping merrily along from wave to wave, her keel finally biting into the lead gray water and with the mast still pointing – more or less – in the right direction. As the autopilot woke it sent an error message and then their course – more or less – resumed southwestward.
Taggart stood and walked to the aft rail, and there he turned and looked up the mast. It was still standing, but only just. Several intermediate stays had let go and he could see at least two ruptured tangs hanging near the masthead, then he leaned out over the hull and saw that the pure white gelcoat hull material was scorched and bubbled in places, while the underside of the retractable swim platform had taken the brunt of the radiative energy: the fiberglass here was crazed and hanging in tatters around the two hinge points, and he shook his head as this gnawing new importance registered.
Only the sound coming from the inferno was now utterly ethereal, almost otherworldly. Like all the glass in the world had just fallen to earth and shattered in one collective release of surface tension, and all that was left of the world were the tinkling screams that seemed to embody the cries of sundered angels crying as they fell open-armed into the waiting fires. Taggart closed his eyes and he could just see glimmering bodies writhing within the swirling currents and licking tongues of fires that seemed poised to reach up and pluck their scorched souls from the falling sky…but he had to ask…’just what am I seeing…?’
And two hundred miles overhead two orbs coalesced inside the moment, disbelief that the fabric of the universe could be so carelessly and completely undone.
Their cries for help were completely unnecessary.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop in a week or so.